Harry Rhulen

CEO – Co-founder – Firestorm

Harry Rhulen is Chairman of Firestorm and a dynamic speaker and presenter.

Mr. Rhulen has experience as President, CEO, and COO of various public and private companies. He has extensive expertise in the identification of vulnerabilities and risks along with solution design and is a nationally recognized expert in the field of preparedness, crisis management and crisis communications. He has spoken to hundreds of groups on risk management, crisis/communications management, governance, and disaster planning. He is also a member of the ASIS Crisis Management and Business Continuity Council.

Firestorm is currently engaged to help keep hundreds of schools and camps, and tens of thousands of students and campers safe. Harry has personally responded to some of the nation’s greatest school tragedies—including Virginia Tech. Harry’s crisis response experience extends beyond school shootings and includes incidents of: sexual abuse, suicide, bullying, hazing, domestic violence, drowning, child pornography allegations, communicable illness outbreaks, and more.

Mr. Rhulen, who spent the first eighteen years of his career in the insurance industry, has been Chairman and CEO of a public insurance holding company and brings extensive experience in risk management, crisis management, due diligence and business management to lead Firestorm’s strategic planning initiatives

Harry has worked as a consultant in many industries, using his risk management, crisis management, and business management skills, public company, legal, bankruptcy, and due diligence experience to help his clients.

He has served on the boards of several profit and not-for-profit entities. He has received humanitarian awards for many of his efforts, including the “Quality of Human Life” Award from the American Red Cross. He graduated cum laude from the College of Insurance and has both a Juris Doctor and Masters of Business Degree from Syracuse University.

Harry is co-author of Disaster Ready People For A Disaster Ready America.

Contact Harry


Brief overview of sample Firestorm presentations:

5-common failures in a Disaster or Crisis – Firestorm has identified 5-common failures in every business in a disaster. The failure to:

  1. Control Critical Supply Chain – It is important to identify the internal and external dependencies of critical services or products.
  2. Train employees for work and home – If employees do not have a clear strategy for their families, an emergency or disaster can force them to choose between family and work. Family will always trump work.
  3. Identify and monitor all vulnerabilities- Knowing the threats an organization will face enables it to manage the results and respond to those threats. Firestorm’s process identifies the potential threats, both natural and manmade.
  4. Test, train and update plans – By test exercising plans and their procedures, the problems or weaknesses identified will stimulate appropriate changes.
  5. Have a crisis communications plan – Effective communications is a crucial element in emergency/crisis management and should assume a central role in disaster preparedness. Proper communications establishes confidence in the ability of an organization to deal with a crisis and to bring about a satisfactory conclusion.

Business Impact Analysis – To ensure that the business continuity program addresses every key element of business continuity, it is vital to perform a complete analysis of the business and the impact of any disruption on day-to-day business operations. Firestorm’s BIA is the foundation work upon which the entire continuity planning process is built. Attendees will examine both financial and operational impacts (such as contractual commitments and penalties or fines, regulatory requirements, reputation, employee, etc.) and recovery time objectives for each business function critical to the operation of the organization.

Crisis Communications – “If you want to Live, Leave” – Effective media communication is a crucial element in effective emergency crisis management and should assume a central role from the start. It establishes public confidence in the ability of an organization to deal with an emergency and to bring about a satisfactory conclusion. Effective media communication is also integral to the larger process of information exchange aimed at eliciting trust and promoting understanding of the relevant issues or actions.

Crisis Management – The purpose of a Crisis Management Plan is to guide responsible executives through the management oversight of any business disruption. Crisis Management is a response system to be used in the wake of a major event that threatens reputation, employees, brand or sustainability of the organization.

Governance and Compliance issues – “Luck is not a Strategic Plan” addresses why planning is necessary. There are fiduciary and legal requirements of senior leadership and boards to have plans in place. We will show the statistics around disasters and their impact on organizations. We will provide a brief overview of the communicable illness/pandemic, security and continuity planning requirements.

Testing of Plans–Interactive group test exercise – Test exercises give participants an appreciation of how decisions need to be made, both at a strategic and tactical level. By test exercising plans and their procedures, problems or weaknesses can be identified and used to stimulate necessary and appropriate changes. Errors committed and experience gained during testing will provide valuable insights and lessons learned that can be factored into the planning/updating process. Test exercises allow management to use and assess plans and procedures to determine their feasibility and determine whether they will work under actual conditions.

‘Lessons Learned’ from Firestorm’s crisis management experience at Virginia Tech – Attendees will gain insight into how crises develop & escalate, the five common failures, crisis performance maturity model and why it is important to have a uniform message and crisis communications plan in place. In addition, social media risk has accelerated impacts from crises. The impacts at Penn State from the 2011 events show the expanded role social media plays in a crisis. Attendees will participate in an interactive crisis exercise simulation and decision criteria.

Pandemic/Communicable Illness Planning – Whether or not someone believes the H5N1 virus and new variants will become the next pandemic is irrelevant. A Communicable Illness/Pandemic Plan which takes into account intentional and unintentional events is a necessary part of today’s business continuity planning.

Personal Planning – Disaster Ready People – every crisis is a human crisis. He co-authored “Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America,” to guide individuals in developing their own preparedness plan at home. This benefits corporations as well, because the key to having employees perform at work is for them to know their families are safe. The fundamental building block to having employees perform at work is for them to know their families are safe. There is a high rate of absenteeism among employees and first responders during a crisis. We will provide a copy of our book, Disaster Ready People, to each participant, along with a condensed synopsis on how to create a plan at home.

Product Recall – a recall can quickly escalate into a local, national or even international news story. Having a recall plan in place will not only protect the consumer, but manage the communications and thereby the reputation and brand of the company, are critical. The way a company communicates about the crisis that occurred, often becomes their second crisis.

Public Law 110, 53 – Title IX (PS PREP) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been mandated by Congress to implement certification of Business Continuity Plans for every business in both the public and private sectors. Title IX establishes the need for certified corporate continuity plans within a 24 to 36 month deadline.

Red Flag Rules (also involves HIPAA) – Identity Theft requirements. “Medical Identity theft can impair your health and finances…and detecting this isn’t easy… and remedying the damages can be difficult.” Wall Street Journal October 11, 2007.

Social Media Risk – This presentation will address social media risk and crisis management The events at Penn State are another example showing how social media impacts a crisis. This presentation will address social media risk and crisis management. Today’s continuity plans need to address these social media risks as part of an all hazards approach. Social media risk is an identified vulnerability and needs to be included in every BIA and Business Continuity Plan. FINRA, the FFIEC and others have already established regulations for broker dealers to manage and monitor social media risk. Look for this regulatory approach to expand.

Social Media Risk Monitoring– Almost all corporate disasters and crises are impacted by social and traditional media. Every company must monitor what is being said about the organization in blogs, news sites and forums. The failure to monitor social media may mean the end of your company. Attendees can begin to harness this highly valuable intelligence to preserve the corporate reputation, improve its overall image and ultimately secure the organization’s future successes.

Supply Chain Failure – “Are you fighting today’s battles with yesterday’s thinking?” Today, companies face critical decisions regarding emerging supply chain issues, challenges, and strategies across a wide variety of industries. For most companies, the supply chain accounts for over 80 percent of the company’s assets and over 75 percent of its employees. Yet, most were built incrementally over many years, and in very different economic and business conditions. Supply chain failure is the most common failure a company faces in a disaster, as well as in a company’s growth plans. Avoiding supply chain failure is key to competing successfully.

“Violence in the Workplace -The New Norm” (Workplace Violence) – focuses on workplace violence events becoming more commonplace. Given the current economic climate, including widespread layoffs, we can expect this troubling trend to continue. Every business has a responsibility to mitigate this exposure through planning and training. This presentation is a first step in empowering organizations to respond to this emerging threat. A workshop to understand the workplace violence issues that an organization’s leadership faces is an excellent step towards preparedness. Jim has done similar workshops with public company boards and other organizational leadership. This approach provides management a framework to move forward in a crisis.